Monday, May 01, 2006

End of the line for transit stop phones

A big thing is made of our CBD tram super stops and the facilities offered, eg level access, passenger information, change machines, and even public phones.

Grouping shops and services around public transport stops is desirable as it makes it time-effective for multi-purpose trips to be made by walking and public transport.

Often taken for granted facilities like permeable street patterns, pedestrian islands, shade, seating, corner stores, letter boxes and public phones are essential to a fine-grained transit-friendly walkable neighbourhood.

When these are removed walking and transit becomes less attractive and driving more so. This reduces urban amenity and increases the economic resources needed for roads and parking.

Though it would strike many as being trivial, and this post may well contain an element of luddism, public phones are one of the many ingredients that contribute to urban walkability. And amenity, walkability and public transport are three key reasons why Melbourne's pre WWII suburbs are amongst its most desirable, as reflected in current land values.

It is thus unfortunate that Telstra wants to remove what it calls 'low use' public phones. In a small suburban area I have counted no less than three payphones with the infamous 'proposed for removal' label. All were near bus or tram stops, so would have been used by passengers at some time. If facilities like these disappear, it might be all too hard for the average person and they might as well get in their car and drive everywhere.

Our disappearing public phones is just one example of where despite the pro-walkability and pro-public transport messages in plans such as Melbourne 2030, changes like these encourage the opposite, with our neighbourhoods are becoming harder rather than easier to efficiently serve by more sustainable transport modes.

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